Reviewed and updated for accuracy on January 15, 2020, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold in people.
The CDC states that adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year, and children have even more.
Human colds are so common that it’s natural to wonder whether dogs can catch colds too. And if so, can dogs catch human colds?
Here’s everything you need to know about dog colds and what you can do to keep your dog healthy.
Can Dogs Catch a Cold?
The short answer is yes, dogs do catch colds, and they are very similar to our colds in terms of the symptoms they experience.
Dog Cold Symptoms
Many viruses—and even a few bacterial species—that infect dogs (e.g., canine respiratory coronavirus, canine adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bronchiseptica) cause clinical signs in dogs that are almost indistinguishable from those seen in people who are suffering from colds:
The main difference between our colds and theirs is that different infectious agents are generally involved when a dog gets sick.
Can Dogs Catch Human Colds?
The CDC states that for people, many different respiratory viruses can result in the common cold. But lucky for your dog, the viruses that cause colds in people are generally species-specific.
That means that these viruses are virtually incapable of causing illness in dogs, except, perhaps, under the rarest of circumstances (for example with large doses of certain types of parainfluenza).
So the answer to whether or not dogs can catch colds from humans is almost always “no.”
Can Dogs Catch the Flu From Humans?
Dogs do get the flu, but it is usually caused by specific canine influenza viruses, similar to the situation with colds.
However, reports have been published where humans and dogs were infected with some of the same types of influenza viruses. Previously, we did not think dogs could come down with the human flu.
We’re constantly learning more about human and canine viruses. In the meantime, practice common sense hygiene like washing your hands frequently when either you or your dog is sick.
How to Treat a Dog With a Cold
If your dog is showing signs of having a cold, we need to assess just how bad they feel.
If your dog is still eating and drinking and stays relatively active, it’s reasonable to try to ease their symptoms by using home remedies.
Encourage your dog to rest, drink, and eat so his immune system has the resources to fight off the infection. If necessary, wipe your dog’s eyes and nose with a warm, damp cloth to keep him comfortable.
To help ease your dog’s congestion, use a humidifier or keep your dog in the bathroom while you run a hot shower.
Do not give your dog over-the-counter cold remedies for humans without first consulting your veterinarian—they are dangerous when given to dogs.
When to Contact Your Veterinarian About Your Dog’s Cold
It’s time to make an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog:
Is not eating and drinking well
Appears to be uncomfortable
Has difficulty breathing
Has symptoms that aren’t greatly improved within a week or so
The doctor can then rule out other causes for your dog’s congestion, sneezing, coughing, etc. These might include pneumonia, nasal foreign bodies, inhaled irritants or allergens, tumors, nasal mites, and fungal infections.
If your veterinarian does diagnose your dog with the equivalent of a cold, they might prescribe antibiotics (only if a bacterial cause is likely), cough suppressants, decongestants, or anti-inflammatories to make your dog feel better and hopefully speed up their recovery.
Finally, dogs who are congested, sneezing, and coughing are often contagious to other dogs. If your dog has these symptoms, keep them away from other dogs to help prevent the spread of disease.
Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed 10/20/2016
Featured Image: iStock.com/marcoventuriniautieri